It is with no doubt that there has been an unmissable shift in the world. The novel Coronavirus known as COVID-19 has begun to reshape our lives into what is being widely termed a new normal at a very phenomenal speed. Even the old dogs have to adapt to the new tricks which may have been unexplored because, let’s face it, who would have ever thought that the entire globe would be, in days or weeks have entire workforces working remotely. It has arguably been dismissed as a futuristic school of thought, something we may only do well into the full swing of the 4th industrial revolution, writeDAVE BAAITSE and LERATO MOSIELELE.
Familiar ways of working are fast becoming obsolete, being able to be agile and adjust to the new normal is key, now more than ever. The life of a Mochudi Street Vendor who specializes in Beauty Parlour has significantly changed overnight.
Her ordeal began when government announced State of Emergency and a 28 day lockdown, technically crippling her small and fragile business which has the capacity to bring home at least P3, 000 home in a good month covering both her rentals and bills.
Talking to WeekendPost from Mochudi this week Tebogo Moara who also doubles as a make- up artist said she last had a meal four days ago. “I share a two and half with a colleague who is also a Street Vendor, our hopes at the moment were pinned on social workers but they have since turned their back on us. Life is tough, our electricity units at the moment reads 6.0 megawatts, and we have given everything to God now”.
Their confrontation with the social workers this week did not bear any fruits, after assessment they were told that they will receive a call same day. Upon realising that two days has passed they took it upon themselves to call but were told that they are abled women who could have known better that these situations do happen and could have saved for the future.
“We share a P1, 500 rentals which is already due but no answers are coming forth from government concerning rentals,” she said. As reality is kicking in, governments have had to swiftly formulate COVID-19 policies, to mitigate the further spread and transmission of the virus.
Travel is cancelled and non- existent especially cross border travel in our region leaving room for essential goods only. Life has come to a standstill, the entire world is needed to stay connected and aligned on various issues, including work, on communication platforms made to facilitate remote working.
A culture shift is inevitable as we navigate this new normal as we move into the future with different types of working environments. In hind sight, amidst the acute sense of loss, anxiety and insecurity COVID-19 has brought on all fronts one cannot ignore how the outbreak has brought some sense of unity particularly in terms of rapid responses to a global problem.
In a more intricate level, far beyond people introspecting and realigning their goals towards what really matters, people are more appreciative of locally made produce and are embracing a rebirth or reawakening approach to life.
The digital space is also bursting at the seams with innovations that are transforming our lives daily. Highly welcomed by all who love nature, a great improvement has been seen recently in terms of pollution or man and nature interference with Mother Nature replenishing the earth and reviving badly damaged ecosystems.
A new normal culture that may surely prevail when the dust settles on this front is surely to include working remotely. Companies eager to survive would need to set up and make adjustments for remote working conditions and maintain efficiency under these circumstances.
It’s time to think innovatively lest you perish. A famous pioneer once said, “Innovate or die”. The way the world is going is such that only the tech savvy will survive as we enter the 4th industrial revolution (4IR). Embrace tools to keep you connected to your clients and key stakeholders while enabling efficiency.
Virtual approaches will also, surely boom in popularity as we innovate to create experiences and engage in the virtual realm, as opposed to engaging physically, which goes against gatherings and other social distancing no nos. Events of any kind have been put to an abrupt halt and this calls for innovative thinking to be able to still engage with audiences.
In reality, we cannot ignore the shift that has happened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a shift that now leaves us with this “new normal”. The effects of the pandemic are said to be envisioned to be experienced by the world for at least the next year or so but the remnants of the pandemic, devoid of the apocalyptic effect it has had on the world, will see some elements of our lives improved like the way we work and think from an innovation point of view.
We are living in a moment of history. It is up to all of us to adapt or be left behind by a fast moving world. While addressing the nation South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a few days ago said, “The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted your lives and damaged our economy.
Its severity will continue to take a heavy toll in the weeks and months to come. The pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals’ alike, deepening poverty and increasing hunger. The urgent and dramatic measures we have taken to delay the spread of the virus have been absolutely necessary. They have given us the space to better respond to the inevitable rise in infections and to thereby save tens of thousands of lives.
We are now embarking on the second phase of our economic response to stabilize the economy, address the extreme decline in supply and demand and protect jobs. As part of this phase, we are announcing a massive social relief and economic support package of R500- billion, which amounts to around 10% of GDP”.
Here at home many Batswana continue to criticize their own government for failing to cushion them during this crisis and coming up with rigorous policies that guide the lockdown. In his last public address President Mokgweetsi Masisi detailed a raft of financial interventions that include a loan repayment holiday of between three and six months for home and vehicle loans to cushion those affected by the lockdown. He also said the country would build up reserves including grain, water, medical supplies and fuel.
This week Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Mr Lefoko Moagi announced reduction in petroleum prices. He explained that the decrease on petroleum products prices was influenced by the general decline of international oil prices, which have been going down mainly as a result of reduced global demand driven predominantly by the slowdown of the world economy.
The price adjustment, which commenced on April 21 decreased retail prices for petrol grades by 13 thebe per litre, diesel by 10 thebe per litre and prices for illuminating paraffin decreased by 20 thebe per litre. Speaking during a press briefing, Moagi said the government would closely monitor the prices of petroleum products in both regional and international markets and make the necessary price adjustments every three months.
While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.
Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.
Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.
After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.
“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.
“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”
The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.
While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age. By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.
“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.
She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.
“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.
“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”
“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”
At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.
“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.
“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’
Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.
Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.
According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).
The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.
Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.
Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.
According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.
According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.
These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.
As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.
Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.
Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.
In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.
“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.
The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021. It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.
“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.
The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).
It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”
The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.
With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.
When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).
However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).
Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”
Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.
The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely. However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.
Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.
Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.
President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.
According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.
The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.
With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made. The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.